Saturday, September 15, 2012


The graphic to your left demonstrates how the two recent US political conventions revealed once and for all two diametrically opposed parties with differing visions how our country should proceed.  Red is getting redder and blue is even bluer.  The conventions with all their political rhetoric apparently validate that the contentious environment which exists in Washington has seemingly spread to the populous and will continue for some time.  As one Dallas Morning News writer recently opined, “The only thing we agree on is how deeply we disagree.” We concur, but ponder the real degree of divisiveness?

The frustrating thing for us is that so much of the disagreement is based on lies, innuendo and spin intended to do one thing – keep the pot stirred and forward the agenda of the offending party.  Would that our Founding Fathers could see the mess that we’ve gotten ourselves into. 

Frankly, I don’t believe anything I hear, see or read unless I check it out with any one of a number of watchdogs including the Washington Post "Fact Checker", the St. Petersburg Times PolitiFact, The Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania’s, Snopes, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) and others who can offer an unbiased and objective analysis of the claims or statements of any individual or party. 

Unfortunately, for many folks that just doesn’t work when so polarized at the extremes, they just reject out of hand any debate, blindly accepting any spin or lies as a matter of course.  Even when caught in lies their strategy is to attack the fact checkers labeling them as “irrelevant”.  For them there is no debate, rather the “so what?” perception that these watchdogs are nothing more than partisan left/right-wing entities with their own agenda.  Enter the age of - my way or the highway.

Now a primer for the Fourth Estate (look it up) - We need to encourage journalism to return to that honest truth in reporting mantra and not a continuation of the so-called entertainment venues we see at Fox and other media outlets where they speak to their audience, not as objective reporters of the news of the day, rather as vehicles for persuasive, partisan political propaganda.   
We say thank God for Bob Schieffer and ask in the same breath what ever happened to the journalistic work ethic espoused and practiced by Eric Sevareid, Howard K. Smith, Huntley & Brinkley, the old Walter Cronkite and a mostly objective Tom Brokaw who would have fought the ever present blatant attempts to influence the thoughts and feelings of sometimes unsuspecting viewers? 

So, lots of us out there (me too) have been carefully and systematically propagandized, indoctrinated if you will, and not so subtly, by our political parties. Whether by deliberate design or a failure to pursue the truth, some of the media have bonded with the politicians maybe because it’s a better story or an expedient avenue to an enhanced accessibility.  

Conclusion: Fact checkers are a great start of the return to honest journalism since they are motivated by VERITAS – The Truth - with the intention to pass it on to any who care.  While that number seems to be dwindling especially on the extreme right, some folks appear to be listening including some enlightened politicians on both sides of the aisle who have recently admitted that they check their own scripts with any one of the aforementioned fact checking organizations lest they repeat a debunked and false claim. We say, well done. Fact checking, we hope, will be the inspiration for an emboldened media to hold politicians accountable for their misleading statements. If you want let’s call it news analysis

Failing that, there are some including, candidate Romney who continue to spin, spin, spin probably for no other reason than it “plays well.”  Example:  Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post’s Fact Checker opines, “With Romney, for instance, no matter how many times we say it is not true that Barack Obama apologized for America, he (Romney) will not change that line. For his political interests, it's a good line."  We can cite many other instances of oft repeated lies by this candidate who however debunked keeps repeating them? Spinning, we maintain, at that level is, indeed, called propaganda in its most negative form.

That segues us to one of our main points today.  With all the spin and outright lies filling our airspace why are the perpetrators not being called on the carpet and held accountable by the mainstream press?  We keep hearing that the media has a liberal slant but time and time again we see Romney and Obama in press conferences and no one, we repeat no one, from the Fourth Estate questions them on the deceit.

As David Corn, Washington Bureau Chief of Mother Jones recently commented, “A politician mangling the truth is hardly news. Yet what was notable about this moment was that the candidate felt no compunction about appearing before more than 1,500 journalists and repeating whoppers that their own colleagues had so roundly debunked. Nor was Romney challenged about any of these untruths when it came time to ask questions. He was able to peddle a string of officially determined falsehoods before a crowd of newspaper editors—repeat: a crowd of newspaper editors—and face absolutely no consequences. The uncomfortable question for the press: With the news cycle overwhelmed by the headline-of-the-nanosecond, and with politicians ignoring or openly challenging the truth cops, how much does the much-heralded political fact-checking industry really matter?”

Despite their very public denials the Republicans do pay attention to fact checkers as do the Democrats though many in both parties keep spinning.  One very defiant Romney campaign pollster, Neil Newhouse, recently stated, “We're not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers."  OK, for me that’s a declaration that the truth of any issue doesn’t really matter to them.

So, our reality now is that with so many folks spinning yarns and mainstream journalism seemingly unwilling or unable to broach the truth, we have to depend on fact checkers to sort out the facts.  That said, who is there to check the fact checkers?  The obvious answer is We the People using common sense and that gray matter between our ears by sorting through whatever is thrown at us and then coming to logical conclusions. Use all the resources out there.  Stop, look and listen to the evidence and then come to your conclusions but do so honestly and for no one else except you.

Now embracing the truth you can for whatever reason you don’t like a candidate - whether they support political philosophies you either embrace or reject including a stronger centralized government, more robust state’s rights, nationalized health care or you just don’t like them, their religion or ethnicity or even their personalities – you are now finally free to express and reveal yourself for who you are and honestly define and embrace your political positions and ideology.

Finally, we strongly believe what Morris Fiorina, a Stanford University political scientist, expressed in Culture War? The Myth of a Polarized America. Fiorina reflects that, “most Americans stand in the middle of the political landscape and are in general agreement even on those issues thought to be most divisive.” We think so too and in this election it appears that most of us reasonable, middle-of-the-road, mostly well-educated folks are being played – big time

And what is the middle?  If you want to inject a little humor into your day go surf on the Net and see how Romney recently defined middle income/class folks. It’s good to know where I am classified though by his standards I am in the pauper category and God only knows what class.

So, reckon it’s time to step up and ask ourselves the question: Do We have confidence in someone who will lie to us?  Most of us may end up voting for the one that spins the least.

To all those honest and objective Fact Checkers we offer a sincere and heartfelt, thank you and kudos for a job well done!


Ned Buxton

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